Justice Joseph row: Cong hopes Collegium will reiterate decision; updates

A file photo of Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court K M Joseph during the inauguration of the Joint Conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi on Sunday, April 24, 2016
The Congress hoped the Supreme Court Collegium would soon reiterate its decision to elevate Uttarakhand Chief Justice K M Joseph to the apex court and that Wednesday's deferment was only temporary, even as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the functioning of the judiciary should not be politicised. The Communist Party of India (CPI), however, alleged that there was "something going on" over the deferment of the Collegium's decision and it all shows that the crisis is not over and has instead deepened.

The SC Collegium today deferred a decision on the issue of reconsidering its recommendation to elevate Justice Joseph as the judge of the apex court, after it was sent back by the government last week.

"Hope this deferment is only temporary and the collegium will soon reiterate its earlier recommendation," senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said.

BJP leader Nalin Kohli, however, alleged that some political parties and individuals are constantly "scrutinising and commenting" on the collegium meetings and are trying to influence its decision-making process.

"Our approach is that the entire process and functioning of the judiciary and issues related to it should not be politicised or motives constantly alluded to it. It is unfortunate that some political parties and individuals are persisting to do," Kohli said.

CPI leader D Raja said, "We do not have a national judicial commission. It all shows that crisis is not over. It is deepening in a way. Why the collegium has postponed. We know that the government had earlier objected to Justice Joseph's name.

"Nobody knows what is happening. There is no transparency. The government had earlier objected to Justice Joseph's elevation. There is something going on between the government and the judiciary," he said.

The five-member Collegium comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph met after the top court's working hours, but no decision was taken.

Besides Justice Joseph, the agenda of the Collegium was to deliberate on the names of some judges from Calcutta, Rajasthan and Telangana and Andhra Pradesh high courts for elevation as apex court judges.

Here are the top 10 developments around Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice K M Joseph's elevation as a Supreme Court judge and the Supreme Court Collegium meeting today to reconsider the recommendation for elevation:

1) Congress hopes Collegium will reiterate decision, BJP says judicial functioning should not be politicised
The Congress hoped the Supreme Court Collegium would soon reiterate its decision to elevate Uttarakhand Chief Justice K M Joseph to the apex court and that today's deferment was only temporary, even as the BJP said the functioning of the judiciary should not be politicised.

"Hope this deferment is only temporary and the collegium will soon reiterate its earlier recommendation," senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said.

BJP leader Nalin Kohli, however, alleged that some political parties and individuals are constantly "scrutinising and commenting" on the collegium meetings and are trying to influence its decision-making process.

"Our approach is that the entire process and functioning of the judiciary and issues related to it should not be politicised or motives constantly alluded to it. It is unfortunate that some political parties and individuals are persisting to do," Kohli said.

ALSO READ: SC Collegium defers decision on Centre asking it to reconsider Justice K M Joseph's elevation

2) Govt's decision to reject Justice Joseph not related to his Uttarakhand rulingAt a post-cabinet briefing, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government's decision to return the file of Justice Joseph had "nothing to do with his order quashing the President's Rule in Uttarakhand".The consideration of the elevation of Uttarakhand High Court Justice KM Joseph to Supreme Court, has been deferred, after a Supreme Court Collegium meeting of the five senior most judges.

"I wish to deny with all authority at my command it has nothing to do with it (Justice Joseph's decision) at all for two obvious reasons. Firstly, a proper (BJP-led) government with nearly three-fourths majority has been elected in Uttarakhand. Secondly, that order was confirmed by Justice (J.S.) Khehar of the Supreme Court," the minister said in response to a media query.

3) SC Collegium defers decision on Justice Joseph's elevation: Supreme Court Collegium today deferred its decision on the issue of reconsidering the name of Uttarakhand Chief justice K M Joseph for elevation as an apex court judge. All the five judges of the Collegium - Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph - took part in the meeting.

4) SC Collegium meets today to decide on Justice Joseph's elevation: A crucial meeting of the Supreme Court Collegium will take place on Wednesday to reconsider the name of Justice K M Joseph for elevation as an apex court judge. Justice Joseph's name was recommended along with Senior Advocate Indu Malhotra's on January 10, for their elevation as apex court judges. The government had on April 26 declined to accept the Collegium's recommendation on Justice Joseph and asked it to reconsider his name. Malhotra was sworn in as a judge of the apex court on April 27.   

5) Collegium to discuss Modi govt's note on why it sent back the Justice Joseph's name: The five-member Collegium is likely to discuss threadbare the note sent to the CJI by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad while returning the file relating to the recommendation to elevate Justice Joseph.  

Justifying its stand while returning the recommendation, the Centre had sent a detailed note to CJI Misra, giving reasons to the Supreme Court Collegium for its decision on Justice Joseph's elevation, including that seniority may not be an important consideration to ensure regional representation. The note of the Union Law Ministry had said that the proposal to reconsider Justice Joseph's name had the approval of President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.     

The Centre has said that the proposal was not in accordance with the top court's parameters and there was adequate representation of Kerala in the higher judiciary from where he hails. His seniority was also questioned by the Centre. 

While sending back the recommendation for reconsideration, the government has also flagged the non-representation of SC/STs in the top court judges.    

Read Business Standard's special piece on the SC judge elevation row: Jamming Justice KM Joseph: Will SC protect the constitution and the court?  

6) Modi govt bound to appoint Justice Joseph as SC judge if Collegium sticks to recommendation: What happens if the Collegium repeats its recommendation to elevate Justice Joseph? According to legal experts, the government will be bound to appoint him as a Supreme Court judge if the Collegium reiterates its recommendation. Former High Court judges S N Dhingra and Ajit Sinha, along with senior advocates Vikas Singh and Dushyant Dave, were concurrent in their opinion that it would be binding on the government to elevate Justice Joseph to the apex court if the Collegium sticks to its earlier recommendation. In fact, all of them were categorical that if any name on reconsideration is cleared, the government has to act on it. 

All of them said that the government has to follow the guidelines laid down by the apex court in its 1993 and 1998 judgements, referred to as the second and third judges case, relating to the appointment of judges to the higher judiciary. The third judges case -- a presidential reference of 1998 -- has a relevant para, which reads, "However, if after due consideration of the reasons disclosed to the Chief Justice of India, that recommendation is reiterated by the Chief Justice of India with the unanimous agreement of the Judges of the Supreme Court consulted in the matter, with reasons for not withdrawing the recommendation, then that appointment as a matter of healthy convention ought to be made."

Read what Congress had to say on Modi govt's move to oppose Justice Joseph's elevation:  Opposing Joseph's elevation 'revenge', Modi regime wants own people in judiciary: Congress 

7) No time frame for govt to implement Collegium's recommendation: However, while the government would be bound to appoint Justice Joseph as an apex court judge under such circumstances, the aforementioned legal experts said that there was no mention of any time frame for the government to implement the Collegium's recommendation.    

Read our previous copy on updates and developments around the Justice Joseph elevation row: Govt bound to appoint Joseph if collegium reiterates, say experts: Updates 

8) Collegium said Justice Joseph 'more deserving and suitable in all respects': The Collegium had on February 1 made public its resolution recommending the name of Justice Joseph for appointment as an apex court judge. The collegium resolution had said: "The collegium considers that at present Justice K M Joseph, who hails from Kerala High Court and is currently functioning as Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court, is more deserving and suitable in all respects than other Chief Justices and senior puisne Judges of High Courts for being appointed as Judges of the Supreme Court Of India."  

"While recommending the name of Justice Joseph, the collegium has taken into consideration combined seniority on all-India basis of Chief Justices and senior puisne Judges of High Courts, apart from their merit and integrity," the resolution had said, adding, "He stands at Sl. No.45 in the combined seniority of High Court Judges on all-India basis." 

9) Justice Joseph's ruling against Modi govt move in Uttarakhand responsible for current state of affairs? The Congress has alleged that the Centre's decision to return the recommendation to elevate Justice Joseph came due to his judgement against the imposition of President's Rule in Uttarakhand.  

Justice Joseph had headed the Bench that had quashed the Modi government's decision to impose President's Rule in 2016 when the Congress was in power in the hill state.

ALSO READ: What is holding up Justice Joseph's appt to SC, asks Chidambaram  

10) Justice Joseph unfazed by controversy over his elevation: At the time when the Centre returned the recommendation to elevate him, Justice K M Joseph appeared unfazed by the development, news agencies had reported. On the day of the Centre's move, Justice Kuttiyil Mathew Joseph went through the day's work even as the nation vigorously debated the rift between the judiciary and the government over the issue.    

Justice Joseph held a full day's court on that day, news agencies said. Sitting in a Division Bench, he spent most of the day hearing a case of employees of the State Forest Department claiming pension benefits from the Uttarakhand Government. 

"He was in his usual jolly mood, disposing of cases with patience as he always does," Advocate D S Patni, who appeared in a case before Justice Joseph, told agencies. 

After the court wrapped up its business for the day, the judge continued with his daily routine of taking a leisurely walk in the evening on Mall Road, the reports said. The Uttarakhand Chief Justice is often lost in the crowd of tourists in the lake town as he prefers to walk alone in the evenings, without the security cover he is entitled to.

Further, according to reports, the 59-year-old judge is known for keeping his cool in the most adverse of circumstances. A couple of years back Justice Joseph had to be rushed to hospital in an air ambulance. As lawyers worried about his health, those close to him said Justice Joseph managed to maintain calm throughout the period. 

Govt did not consult CJI Misra before returning recommendation to elevate Justice Joseph: In giving its nod to Advocate Indu Malhotra's elevation and sending back Justice Joseph's name, the government decided to "unilaterally" segregate the names sent by the Collegium, without consulting CJI Misra, News18 had reported on the day the Centre sent back the recommendation. The term "segregation" here refers to proceeding with one recommendation and not on the other. 

Earlier, it had been reported that if the government went ahead with "segregation" of the recommendations, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad might write to CJI Misra about its intention. On January 22, the Supreme Court Collegium's file recommending the elevation of Justice Joseph and Malhotra reached the law ministry. After processing the file in the first week of February, the recommendations were kept in abeyance as the government wanted to elevate only Malhotra. 

Justice Joseph's career in brief: Justice Joseph, who will turn 60 this June, has been the Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court since July 2014. He was appointed as a Permanent Judge of the Kerala High Court on October 14, 2004, and had assumed charge of the Uttarakhand High Court on July 31, 2014.    />
With agency inputs